“He tried to name which of the deadly seven (sins) might apply, and when he failed he decided to append an eighth, regret.” I could swap stories of regret ’til the cows come home, but what good would that do? Unless you were born today, each of us has a past to move beyond, but sadly some of us work our way back to the pain all too often. If I’m not careful, I return routinely to be scorched by my past, self-inflicting the hurt of remembering, like my memory of the man who died hating me.
We had been friends, spending more than a few hours together in his jon boat fishing for largemouth in the stump heavy waters of Toledo Bend; beyond that, I was his pastor. Everything changed when a certain church dispute left me standing on principle but losing a friend. I wouldn’t budge and Encil couldn’t forgive, so he simply left. He would drive his wife to church in an old faded green Dodge pickup, drop her off to sing in the choir, and return to collect Mozelle each Sunday when the service ended. Eventually I moved on, as young pastors are want to do, and lost track of them. Encil never forgot me. A couple of years later I learned that he had been hospitalized for a terminal condition, and decided to go and see him. Perhaps we could bury the hatchet, or at least dull its edge. The moment is imprinted in my memory like a sepia negative. I entered the room and saw Encil lying in bed, facing forward toward a small elevated television screen. His wife was seated between the bed and door, and upon recognizing me she stood and approached. As I began to speak softly to her, he turned in bed and faced the wall away from me. Mozelle said she thought it best for me to leave. I did, and learned a short time later that he had passed. Encil died hating me, and I’ve spent the past thirty years contemplating how I would rewrite the ending if I could.
Regret is the enemy of peace. Arthur Miller writes, “Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets,” but he is wrong. Regret may be inevitable, yet it need not be the last word. Healing is available to every intrepid heart. It takes courage to own up to one’s past and take responsibility for it, then to embrace God’s forgiveness and extend the same to others. Expressing gratitude for God and every other person you can think of is no mere psychological ploy; genuine thankfulness is not tricking myself or God into granting peace. Gratitude today heals my hurt from yesterday and qualifies me for joy tomorrow. Thanksgiving is the shortest road to healing.
“For godly grief and the pain God is permitted to direct, produce a repentance that leads and contributes to salvation and deliverance from evil, and it never brings regret; but worldly grief (the hopeless sorrow that is characteristic of the pagan world) is deadly [breeding and ending in death].” (2 Corinthians 7:10, Amplified)